Friday, 11 May 2012

Ford's India story: Successes and challenges

India's slowing growth rate has put a spanner in the works of the much sought after auto sector in India. Marred in sluggish sales and volatile demand, the country's top auto players are being forced to think out of the box and line up big launches to keep the auto buyer interested. The dream run is now being put to a test drive.

Ford's sales in India dropped in the latest data revealed for April even though exports doubled year on year.

The company continues to keep a parallel focus on exports which has put India on the global map for Ford making it the hub for the small car Figo.

Ford's Eco Sport is the most awaited car from its stable and has generated significant interest among auto enthusiasts and the public. On Tee Time With Shaili Chopra on ETNOW, Ford's Nigel Wark, executive director (marketing, sales and service), shares that the success of the Indian market so far has also come with its share of challenges - in particular the diversity in demand and a tough business environment over the last few years.

How do you plan to grow the business with new plants coming up and India gaining focus in the emerging market stable?

We expect 60-70 percent of our growth in the next ten years to come from its Asia Pacific and Africa where in India and China will be among the growth markets. Ford has tripled its sales volume in the last two years with the launch of the Figo and today has more than 1,50,000 owners of the Figo.

We have used India as a hub exporting  from the Figo to more than 34 markets. What makes the journey exciting is that eight new products are coming to India by middle of the decade. By 2014, when our new facilities will be ready Ford in India will be well poised to deliver a capacity of 610,000 engines and 440,000 vehicles.

How is the Indian market more challenging than others?

In India one has to deal with tremendous diversity and from a marketing stand point one approach to marketing does not fit all. Consumers wish to see something that is credible and believable.

Today they rely on word of mouth than anything else. At Ford, we always look at ways to stay connected with the consumer across regions and talk in their own language.We are delivering on experiential marketing opportunities to get people engaged with the brand at multiple touch points and in fact taking it step higher where real consumers are co-creating the content and involved with the brand.

And our recent marketing campaigns such a Swap Your Drive and Discover Smart Drive have allowed us to do the same. Your Figo is the big success story in India as you have managed to make the country your hub for over thirty countries. How does it scale up from here?

Ford India's entered into the small car segment, where 70 per cent of total car sales happen, and saw phenomenal success with the most awarded car-ever, the Ford Figo.

Today there are more than 150,000 proud owners of the Figo in India. Our Chennai-made Figo is not only winning over customers here but generating great international demand and is being exported to 34 international markets. It will eventually go to 50 international markets.

Bt what's the blow like given slower growth in the country in general and the impact of high interest rates in the economy?

As an industry, last year was definitely a year in which a slowing global economy, coupled with rise in interest rates, and fuel prices resulted in a decline in consumer confidence and car sales. However Q1 has been positive and we have to see how this trends as we progress through the year.

This is an industry that has to develop and invest in an eco-system and there are challenges where we have to work with suppliers and dealer partners for capacities, efficiencies and talent.

What are the key business challenges for a business like yours?

The automobile industry represents the pulse of the nation and reflects the true potential of the country. India today stands firm as one of the leading automobile markets in the world. India is expected to be No. 3 auto market by 2020 after China and the US. Not only is the world bullish on its outlook for the Indian automotive industry, it also is predicting investment worth $30 billion to $40 billion along with 300,000-500,000 new jobs in the time to come.

At Ford, we also expect the automobile industry in India to grow to five million vehicles by 2015, and nine million by 2020.

What has golf taught you about doing business and about people?

A.Importance of keeping your eye on the critical factors, in this case, the ball. Don't let the rest of the environment distract you. Your objective is to get the ball in the hole! And most importantly, you got to enjoy the journey.

About people too, it teaches you about staying calm under pressure, evaluating risks and personal achievements. The ability to have fun under pressure. The collapse of others as self-inflicted pressure takes it toll.

When did you start golfing and who introduced you do the game?

My father introduced me to Golf. I started when I was 8 years old.

To date, what is your proudest golf accomplishment?

Winning the Annual Grudge match amongst top competing friends who play golf.

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